A coalition of leading Christian groups announced a new initiative to help small churches throughout the U.S. that are at risk of closing due to the coronavirus pandemic, answering Jesus’ call to care for the “least of these.”
Launched this week, the Churches Helping Churches Challenge seeks to assist congregations in low-income communities in urban areas that have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 economic shutdown.
In an interview with The Christian Post, NFL player Benjamin Watson, national spokesman for the initiative, cited statistics from a recent Barna Group survey revealing that six to nine percent of pastors are unsure or not confident that their church will survive the coronavirus pandemic.
Forty-two percent of pastors said giving was “significantly” down and 28 percent said it was “slightly” down. Only around a quarter said it stayed the same.
Additionally, nearly a quarter of American churches (22 percent) have already reduced staff hours, reduced compensation or laid off employees.
“As soon as the news broke about the virus, I felt called to support other believers,” Watson said. “My father is a pastor in South Carolina, and a couple of weeks ago he mentioned that many pastors were saying they didn’t think their churches could make it through this pandemic if people weren’t coming through their doors every Sunday.”
“The Bible talks a lot about caring for the ‘least of these,’ and in many ways, that’s referring to the church. As the body of Christ, we all suffer when one suffers. Many churches won’t make it through this. As believers, it’s our honor and duty to support one another. This initiative is a way we can do just that.”
The Churches Helping Churches Initiative creates a Coronavirus At-Risk Church Relief Fund that provides $3,000 grants to small churches that are at risk of closing within the next three months due to a steep loss in financial giving.
The initial goal of the fund is to raise $500,000 during the month of April from Christian donors, foundations and large churches. As of Monday afternoon, Coronavirus At-Risk Church Relief Fund has raised $160,000. The grants will be administered by the National Christian Foundation and 100 percent of the proceeds will go directly to at-risk churches.
“A $3,000 grant may not sound like much, but oftentimes, it’s enough to get some of these smaller churches through the next week or the next month,” Watson said. “Many churches are just like small businesses that are struggling right now. While some may receive assistance from the government, it may take months to reach churches. By then, it may be too late.”
Click here to read more.
SOURCE: Christian Post, Leah MarieAnn Klett